Thursday, May 6, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 4/26/21

Morning Time 


Poems

From Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018) we read:  

  • "Mare" by Judith Thurman
  • "Swaybacks in the Springtime" by Kit Wright
  • "Weather" by Yetta Schmier
  • "Catch a Rainbow" by Brian Whittingham
  • "The Rainbow" by Christina Rossetti


Read-Alouds 

We read all the articles from Vol. 8 No. 7 of National Geographic Explorer (Pathfinder Edition): 
  • "Return to the Moon" by Dottie Raymer (This article is from 2009 and talks about a now-canceled plan to return to the moon. After reading the article, we read about its cancellation online and about what the space program is working on now.) 
  • "A Glimpse of Gorillas" by Gary Miller
  • "Pedal Power" by Susan Blackaby 
  • "Dinosaurs in Motion" by Gary Miller 


Music

We are starting to go back and review the pieces we have been listening to for music appreciation this year. This week we listened to Andante from Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin, Symphony No. 94, "Surprise": Second Movement by Franz Josef Haydn, "Jupiter: Bringer of Jollity" from The Planets by Gustav Holst, Orpheus in the Underworld: Can-Can by Jacques Offenbach, and the finale from the William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini. 

We continued to practice singing "Down in the Valley."


Art Appreciation 

We studied Baseball Players by Elaine de Kooning from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard. 


Memory Work

C. reviewed the planets, four directions, 50 states, continents, oceans, months of the year, days of the week, and marks of the church  and worked on "The Tiger" by William Blake, the countries of Europe, and addition and subtraction flashcards.

M: reviewed the countries of Europe and 13 colonies, and worked on "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, the books of the Bible, the 7 sacraments, the monarchs of England, thirteen of the countries of Asia, and multiplication and division flashcards.


Science 

We started BFSU Lesson B-4: Life Cycles. I showed the girls a variety of videos about animal and plant life cycles:
E. practiced the alphabet with magnet letters and learned the second part of the Vowel Rhyme from The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading ("E is the next vowel, don't you see...").  


History 

M. read "The Conquest of Mexico" section in A Picturesque Tale of Progress, which included these subheadings: "Aztec Conquerors," "The Empire of the Aztecs," "The Spanish in America," "Hernando Cortez Leads the Spaniards to Tenochtitlan", and  "The Conquest of Mexico." She also read One Day in Aztec Mexico by G.B. Kirtland, illustrated by Jerome Snyder. 

C. read about Theseus in D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. 


Math 

C. and M. both did math facts flashcards. C. did timed two-digit addition with regrouping on the soroban, and she worked on 3rd grade math in Khan Academy. M. did some more exercises about time in Singapore math and worked on 4th grade math in Khan Academy.


Reading and Writing 

We started a new read-aloud, Away Goes Sally by Elizabeth Coatsworth, and M. started reading and listening to Mattimeo by Brian Jacques. C is still reading Ramona the Pest. She also read Elisa Michaels, Bigger and Better by Johanna Hurwitz. After dinner each night, my husband read from Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore. 

On the weekend, the three big girls wrote Mother's Day messages for both grandmothers. 


Physical Education

We had one outdoor playdate at the playground in our neighborhood, during which E. and C. enjoyed using their friend's stomp rocket. C. is also working on learning to cross the monkey bars. 


Instrumental Music

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder daily. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 4/19/21

Morning Time


Poems 

From Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018) we read: 

  • "The Trout," a Southern Paiute song translated by John Wesley Powell
  • "The Wind" by James Reeves
  • "The Storm" by Sara Coleridge
  • "What is Green?" by Mary O'Neill
  • "The Woodpecker" by Elizabeth Madox Roberts


Read-Alouds 

We read all the articles in Vol.9 No. 2 of National Geographic Explorer (Pathfinder Edition): 

  • "Eye in the Sky" by Jonathan McDowell (this one inspired M. to build a satellite from Legos)
  • "Frightful Animals Hall of Fame" by Shirleyann Costigan
  • "America the Beautiful" by Dana Jensen and Dolores Johnson


Music

We listened to the Triumphal March from Aida by Giuseppe Verdi. We practiced singing "Down in the Valley." 


Art Appreciation

This week we studied "La Piñata" by Diego Rivera from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard. 


Memory Work

C. reviewed the planets, four directions, 50 states, continents, oceans, months of the year, days of the week, and marks of the church  and worked on : "The Tiger" by William Blake and the countries of Europe. 

M: reviewed the countries of Europe and 13 colonies, and worked on "Sea Fever" by John Masefield , the books of the Bible, the 7 sacraments, the monarchs of England, and six countries of Asia.   


Science 

We finished up Lesson C-2 in BFSU, Sound, Vibration and Energy. We focused on how the eardrum works, and on sound waves. We also watched a lot of videos: 

*The information about hearing also qualifies as health.


Preschool

E. practiced her letters, and she learned the first part of the Vowel Rhyme from The Ordinary Parent's  Guide to Teaching Reading ("A is the first vowel we will say...). She also listened to some chapters in  The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook.  

History 

M. read "The Brilliant Civilization of the Mayas"  from A Picturesque Tale of Progress, which included sections called "Migrating Mayas," "Coast Dwellers," "The Old Empire in the South," "The Story of Creation," "Ceremonies and Customs," "The New Empire in Yucatan," "A Tale of Canek the Chieftain," "Kukulcan, Hero and God," "The League of Mayapan," "Chichen Under Toltec Rule," and "Last Days in Yucatan." This was review, as we covered the Maya last year. 

C. read about Hercules (Heracles) in D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths and then I printed out a Hercules coloring book for her to work on. 

Math

C. and M. both did math facts flashcards. C. did timed two-digit addition with regrouping on the soroban, and she worked on 3rd grade math in Khan Academy. M. did some exercises about time in Singapore math and worked on 4th grade math in Khan Academy. 

Reading and Writing 

We finished reading aloud Peppermints in the Parlor. C. finished Betsy-Tacy and Tib and moved on to Ramona the Pest. M. read Prince Caspian. M. also composed the message in her friend's birthday card all by herself and wrote it out without any assistance. 

Physical Education 

M. and C. have been struggling with seasonal allergies, but we still had a playdate here in our neighborhood, which included C.'s first-ever attempt at hopscotch. M. and C. and I also attended an outdoor birthday party for a friend who has a huge backyard and swingset and they did lots of running around there as well. I also took them to the playground near us a handful of times.

Instrumental Music

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder daily. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: April 2021 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

I read 16 books in April (down from 31 in April 2020, when I was still counting picture books) and more than half were audiobooks. After giving up audiobooks for Lent, I decided to celebrate Easter by just listening to a bunch without worrying too much about moderation. As of the end of April, I've listened to 20 books this year. By the end of April 2020, I was already at 28, so I'm still sticking to my goal of limiting audiobooks. 

Here is the full list of what I read in April: 

American Royals by Katharine McGee
[reviewed on Instagram]
Majesty by Katharine McGee
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I started the month with American Royals on audio and ended it with the sequel, Majesty, also on audio. I absolutely loved the first book. The premise - that George Washington was made king, not president - was really intriguing and it was really fun keeping up with all the entanglements among the characters. The sequel was a little less compelling, as all the relationships were entangled differently and it was hard to know where to place my loyalty. I did like the ending, though, and would welcome a third book, though I believe the author has said there are no plans for another book right now.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I heard about this book from Sarah's Nightstand on YouTube and took her advice to listen to the audio. Though I liked the audio production, I was disappointed by the ending that seemed to come out of nowhere and felt like it didn't really add up.


And Then They Stopped Talking to Me: Making Sense of Middle School
by Judith Warner
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This book I heard about from Janssen at @everydayreading on Instagram. I wasn't really reading this from a parent's perspective since I doubt very much my homeschooled kids will ever set foot in a middle school building, but from the perspective of someone who suffered a lot of social angst in 7th and 8th grade.  And it was extremely validating and also made me realize that, however it felt at the time, it was definitely not just me. 

Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin
[reviewed on the blog]
This was a re-read, this time as a read-aloud for my girls. They loved it, and I loved sharing it with them. My review is from 2018. 

All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese
[reviewed on Goodreads
This book was recommended by Carolyn Astfalk's @cmastfalk on Instagram and it was a five-star read for me. Sometimes I'm not sure whether to read Christian fiction that isn't explicitly Catholic, but this one was in no way offensive to Catholics and it was amazingly well-written. I listened to the audio, and it was a great production as well. I highly recommend this one. 

The Enchanted April
by Elizabeth von Armin
I sometimes like to read books with months in the title during the months for which they are named. This was a funny, farcical, escapist read to enjoy outside on the warm days we enjoyed here during April.

The Chicken Sisters by KJ. Dell'antonia 
[reviewed on Instagram]
I believe Krista from Books and Jams on YouTube mentioned this book in passing, and it was available from Book of the Month club and is also a Reese's Book Club Pick. I was able to borrow the audio from the library, figuring I'd just give it a try. It ended up being a five-star family story about two rival chicken restaurants and the pain and resentments at the roots of their feud. I loved it. 

Dream Work by Mary Oliver
For most of the month I was reading poems aloud daily on Instagram, but by the end of three weeks, almost everyone was skipping my stories (the hatred for poetry is stronger than I knew!) so I decided to stop and read some poetry on my own instead. I've been wanting to try Mary Oliver so I selected this book at random at Hoopla. I didn't especially love any one poem, but I do appreciate her talent. 

Camino Island
by John Grisham
Surprise, surprise, this is actually a bookish novel! It involves the theft of F. Scott Fitzgerald's manuscripts and the investigation of the bookstore owner who may be in possession of them. Not my favorite by Grisham, but a fun audiobook. 

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley 
[review coming soon on the blog]
I didn't love this. I'm not really surprised. Details to come in my review.

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
[review coming soon on the blog]
This was technically a re-read since I read it sometime during library school, but since it wasn't on Goodreads and I hadn't reviewed it, I didn't want to count it without revisiting the story. I loved it. 

Peppermints in the Parlor
by Barbara Brooks Wallace
[review coming soon on the blog]
My husband recommended this as a read-aloud for my girls, and we all liked it. Odd, but also strangely wise about the value and vulnerability of elderly people. 

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
This was such a great book. The quickest 945 pages I've ever read, with some of the greatest characters. This will probably end up being my favorite book of 2021.

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
[review coming soon on the blog] 
I listened to this book on audio, and that was a lot easier than reading it in print would have been. It really immerses the reader in the Revolutionary War, and Johnny is a great character.

A Holy Hour with Mother Angelica
[review coming soon at Catholic Mom]
I just love Mother Angelica and I was so happy to receive this for review. My piece about this book will be my June submission for Catholic Mom so I'll save my thoughts until then.  

The Best of the Bunch


My favorites this month were Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese. 


As for the rest of the family's reading...


My husband finished Summer Birds by Penelope Farmer and then read a sequel, Charlotte Sometimes. Now he is reading The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden.

M., age 7, has just started reading and listening to Mattimeo by Brian Jacques. Before that, she read Prince Caspian

C., age 5, finally finished reading Betsy-Tacy and Tib and moved on to Ramona the Pest. She's also really into the Elisa books by Johanna Hurwitz.

E., age 3, has been into picture books such as Ben Finds a Friend by Anne-Marie Chapouton, Pet Show by Ezra Jack Keats, First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and Jody's Beans by  Malachy Doyle. She has also been listening to me read aloud from The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook. We are almost done. 

The babies, R. and A., age 13 months, are into word books with photographs. They like to hear what things are called. They also like to chew on Indestructible books.


Up Next For Me


In May, I'm hoping to read some cozy mystery ebooks as well as a couple of e-ARCs. I also started the audiobook of Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney on Scribd, and I'm enjoying it so far. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Book Review: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois

In 1883, when retired math professor William Waterman Sherman leaves San Francisco in a customized hot air balloon, he is planning to fly across the Pacific Ocean. Three weeks later, he is found in the Atlantic Ocean amidst the wreckage of twenty balloons. After he is rescued and has some time to rest, Professor Sherman makes a public speech explaining what has happened to him. It turns out that he crashed on the island of Krakatoa, landing there just days before its volcano erupted. On Krakatoa, he met a group of people who secretly inhabited the island, living on the fortune found in its diamond mines and following a series of systems that gave everyone a place to live and food to eat.

What a unique and fun book this is! I had no idea what to expect going into it, but the tone of the writing drew me in immediately. I quickly realized that the writing style lent itself well to being read aloud, and I wound up reading it to my big girls (ages 5 and 7) in a matter of days. They were as hooked as I was by the fanciful, adventurous storyline and the humorous, deadpan storytelling. Even my five-year-old, who is traditionally a big realistic fiction fan, was completely into the adventure, wanting to know what was going to happen next.

The illustrations add a lot to the book. They help the reader envision some of the technology, including Professor Sherman's own balloon and the gadgets used by the Krakatoans. My girls clamored for me to show them every single picture, and they seemed to enjoy them as much as the text.  My oldest, especially, is very into drawing diagrams of imagined inventions, and I think this aspect of the book really resonated with those interests for her. 

This book was such a pleasant surprise for me. It is very different from most other children's books and genuinely distinctive, not just in its writing but also in the format and structure of the story. Though my kids enjoyed it, I think they will probably want to revisit it again when they are a bit older, as I think the ideal audience for some of the humor is more toward the 10-14 age range. But it is a great choice for a family read-aloud with a wide range of ages, and I will most likely read it again to my entire crew when the little ones are big enough to appreciate it. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 4/12/21

Morning Time 


Poems 

From Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018) we read: 

  • "Chook, Chook, Chook" by Anonymous
  • "Cuckoo" by Jane Taylor
  • "Birdland" by Anonymous
  • "Five Little Owls" by Anonymous
  • "Voices of Water" by Tony Mitton 

I'm noticing that a whole lot of the poems in this book are anonymous and that is making me like it somewhat less. The girls especially liked "Voices of Water" and had me read it twice.  


Read-Alouds

We read all the articles from Vol. 8 No. 1 of National Geographic Explorer (Pathfinder edition): "Reef Rainbow" by Maxine Rose Schur, "Firestorm!" by Leslie Hall, "Terrific Tales" by Dana Jensen, "Wind at Work" by Beth Geiger, "The Wonder of Water" by Jim Enote. M. loved the one about wildfires, and C. liked the one about the reef.   


Art Appreciation

This week we looked at Domino Players by Horace Pippin from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard. 


Catechism 

This week we worked on  Lesson 21, "The Commandments of the Church: The First and Second Commandments" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism. 


Music 

We sang "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" (with the recording by The Highwaymen) and listened to "Viennese Musical Clock" from the Háry János Suite by Zoltán Kodály. 


Memory Work 

C. reviewed the planets, four directions, 50 states, continents, oceans, months of the year, days of the week, and marks of the church  and worked on : "The Tiger" by William Blake and the countries of Europe. 

M: reviewed the countries of Europe and 13 colonies, and worked on "Sea Fever" by John Masefield , the books of the Bible, the 7 sacraments, the monarchs of England, and six countries of Asia.   


Science 


This week we worked on Lesson C-2 in BFSU, Sound, Vibration and Energy. My husband demonstrated for the girls on his guitar and we also used a rubber band and videos from Dr. Binocs, SciShow Kids, and Operation Ouch (Measuring Sound and Vocal Cords). On Friday, M. and C. went to their friend's house to visit some baby chicks the family was renting and to help with the first stage of making violet petal jam. 

C. also did her Marble Timer Kiwi Crate, which was her favorite of the ones she has done so far.


Preschool

E. and I read a chapter from The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook each day of the week. On Friday, she wrote with chalk on the driveway and played with play dough while the older girls were out. 

History 

M. read the Land in the West section from A Picturesque Tale of Progress, including the subheadings "Adventurous Northmen," "Christopher Columbus," "The Voyage to the West." She also read about Columbus in Follow the Dream by Peter Sis and The Log of Christopher Columbus' First Voyage to America in the Year 1492 published by Linnet Books, and she also looked through Columbus by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire, The Columbus Story by Alice Dalgliesh and Where Do You Think You're Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz. She also drew a picture of Columbus and wrote a few accompanying sentences. For review, she also read A Long and Uncertain Journey by Joan E. Goodman and Tom McNeely. 

C. continued reading from D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths.


Math

C. and M. both did math facts flashcards. C. did timed two-digit multiplication and M. continued working on Singapore 3B Review 5 and 6.


Reading and Writing 

We started a new read-aloud, Peppermints in the Parlor by Barbara Brooks Wallace. M. worked on a story about pirates. She also finished reading The Road from Roxbury by Melissa Wiley and started Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace by Donald Sobol. C. is still reading Betsy-Tacy and Tib.


Physical Education

We played at the playground a few times, and M. and C. played on their friend's swing set. They also did their Ten Thousand Method exercise video on Wednesday.


Instrumental Music

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder daily.


Field Trip

On Saturday, we surprised the kids with a day trip to meet up with Grandma and Aunt B. in Hershey, PA. We visited ZooAmerica and the Hershey Gardens. The girls saw alligators, a bear, a lynx, a bobcat, owls, eagles, and deer at the zoo and played in a wigwam and a garden inspired by The Wind in the Willows, visited the butterfly atrium, and tested out a sundial at the gardens. It was a much-needed day out for everyone. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

2021 Reading Plans: First-Quarter Check-In

Three months of the year have already passed, so I wanted to take some time to see how things are going with my reading plans so far. First I'll take a look at my reading goals.

Goal #1: Stop tracking picture books and board books.
This is going fairly well, although I think I will go back to posting about brand-new picture books on Goodreads and just not put in a date, because otherwise I am having trouble keeping track of what I have and haven't reviewed, which makes it harder to submit feedback to publishers on time. But for other books that my kids read and that I read to them, I've just been making notes in my homeschool blog posts and that's working great.  

Goal #2: Read exactly 200 books, and no more.
Because I gave up audiobooks for Lent, I started April behind schedule, and as I'm writing this, I'm 6 books behind schedule on Goodreads. Since I tend to read a bit more in the summer, I imagine I will pick up this slack at some point well before the end of the year, so I'm not going to adjust my goal/limit of 200 books at this point. If things change by mid-year, I'll revisit the number then.

Goal #3: Read 50 e-books.
I have read 16 e-books so far. Considering I need to have read 25 by the end of June to be on track, it seems like I might even be a bit ahead right now. Reading three a month for the next three months seems doable. 

Goal #4: Cut back on audiobooks.
At this point last year, I had already listened to 24 audiobooks. This year, I've only listened to 15 so far. I've been able to get more into a few podcasts and sometimes watch shows on Hulu at night instead of always listening to books, so this level of cutting back seems just about right. 

Goal #5: Keep up with Goodreads reviews.
This went well in January and February, but I didn't write any of my March reviews until after the month ended. In this next quarter, I want to be more intentional about reviewing as I finish reading each book.

Goal #6: Write down more quotes from books.
I have been doing this with some books and not others. I'm fine right now with not being that stringent with this particular goal. 

Goal #7: Host a read-a-thon.
I actually forgot I had included this goal. I still want to do it, but as I said in my original reading plans post, it will be most likely be in the second half of the year.

Goal #8: Read the Bible in a year.
This is going so well. I am loving The Bible in a Year podcast and the most I have ever fallen behind so far is two days. I'm so thankful for Father Mike Schmitz. I would never have made it this far trying to read on my own.

Goal #9: Fill in Literary Listopia journal.
I haven't done much of this yet, but it seems like summer might be a good time to catch up on it.

Goal #10: Write 1200 words per week. 
This started out bad and got worse. Writing every day doesn't work for me, and apparently writing every week also really doesn't work for me. I probably should have either set a goal to do NaNoWriMo again, or to revise last year's NaNoWriMo novel. Or maybe I should decide it's time to give up on writing fiction. Either way, this goal is on hold at the moment, and I'm still thinking about how I might change it. 

As for my two challenges, The Unread Shelf Project and the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, things are going very well. 

For my Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge, I chose 12 prompts, and decided to read 3 titles for each. As of today, I have read 22 of 36 books. 

I've completed five prompts: 

  • Three Newbery Award winners (When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, Sounder by William Armstrong, The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois)  
  • Three books by the same author (The Late Show by Michael Connelly, The Black Echo by Michael Connelly, Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly)
  • Three Catholic nonfiction books (Mother Angelica by Raymond Arroyo, Be Bold in the Broken by Mary Lenaburg, Motherhood Redeemed by Kimberly Cook) 
  • Three general nonfiction books (Romance is My Day Job by Patience Bloom, Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West, And Then They Stopped Talking to Me by Judith Warren) 
  • Three books published in 2021 (Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt,  Treasures: Visible and Invisible by Catholic Teen Books, Sunshine by Marion Dane Bauer) 

These prompts are in progress: 

  • Three books that are the last/most recent in a series (The Love of Friends by Nancy Bond, The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge) 
  • Three books of more than 500 pages (Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy)
  • Three books under 200 pages (Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather)
  • Three books about books or reading (How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster)
  • Three books about writing (The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr) 
  • Three re-reads (Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien) 

And this is the only prompt where I haven't made any progress, because every audiobook I've listened to so far has had a different narrator: 

  • Three audiobooks with the same narrator 

For the Unread Shelf Project, I have read one book for each monthly prompt so far: 

  • A book with high expectations (January): Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt
  • A book you got for free (February): Treasures: Visible and Invisible by Catholic Teen Books
  • A book you bought on a trip (March): In Cold Blood by Truman Capote 
I've read 13 books from my own shelves so far this year.

So that's where things stand for now. I'll check in again at the end of June! 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 4/5/21

Easter Week Activities

To celebrate the Easter octave, we did a different craft or activity each day. These included: an Alleluia coloring page from Catholic Family Crate, Bunny Bingo, pom pom craft kits from Dollar Tree, Bunny Go Fish, spring sticker scenes, and a Brother Francis video about the Resurrection on Formed.org. I also rewarded correct answers to math flashcards with chocolate candies and jellybeans. 


Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "First Primrose" by Leonard Clark, "Blow,  breezes, blow!" by Anonymous, "Treading on the tail" by Yosa Buson, translated by R.H. Blyth, "When a fish..." by Anonymous, "Freckled fishes, flirting. flitting" by Anonymous 
  • Articles from Vol. 17 No. 2 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Tall Tales" by Lynn Brunelle, "Show Me the Money" by Brenna Maloney, "In Search of Pristine Seas" by Dr. Enric Sala
  • Art appreciation:  Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Catechism: Review of the first few lessons in The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Singing: "The Happy Wanderer" (recording by the Stargazers)
  • Music Appreciation: Slavonic Dance No. 7 by Antonin Dvorak 
  • Memory work: 
    • C: "The Tiger" by William Blake, planets, four directions, 50 states, continents, oceans, months of the year, days of the week, marks of the church 
    • M: "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, countries of Europe, 13 colonies, books of the Bible, the 7 sacraments, countries of Asia  


Science 

This week's topic was Time and the Earth's Turning. On Monday, the girls went outside several times to mark the movement of their shadows. The rest of the week, we discussed sundials and time zones. We finished the week with a video: What is Time? from Sunburst Visual Media, available through the public library's subscription to Just For Kids Access Video. 


Preschool

E. did her letter flashcards several times and listened to several chapters from The Milly-Molly-Mandy storybook. 


History 

M. read India, Land of Wealth and Splendor in A Picturesque Tale of Progress, including sections entitled "Ancient India," "Buddha, the Enlightened," "The Development of India," "The Spread of Buddhism, "The Golden Age of Hinduism," "The Mohammedans in India," "Tamerlane," and "The Great Moghuls." C. continued reading D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths


Math

We started timing C. to see how many two-digit addition problems she could do on the soroban in 5 minutes. Her record so far is 6. M. did some two-digit multiplication and she started re-doing Review 5 and 6 from Singapore 3B because her answers were impossible to understand. 


Reading and Writing 

We finished reading aloud Dandelion Cottage. M. and C. enjoyed reading some of our Easter books. They also took advantage of nice days and read outside. M. wrote a story called "The Pirates" involving three pirates named Black Feather, Jim Dodd, and Sam Krickam who are sailing to the Philippines. 


Physical Education

We visited the playground by our house several times. The girls road bikes on Saturday morning.


Instrumental Music

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder daily.

Homeschool Update: Week of 3/29/21

Holy Week Activities

For each day of Holy Week, we did a different printable activity. Coloring pages came from Catholic Family Crate's free kit  and from a free digital download from Shining Light Dolls. We also did several paper crafts: Palm Sunday Procession from Joy in Their Eyes and 3-D Temple and Judas's Money Pouch from Drawn2BCreative.com. On Good Friday, the girls and I prayed the Stations of the Cross in the basement and then venerated our crucifix. On Saturday orning, we dyed eggs, and at night, we attended the Easter Vigil. M. and C. had booklets to follow along. C. also followed the readings in a children's Bible.  


Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Froggie, Froggie" by Anonymous, "Black Dot" by Libby Houston, "Daffodils" by William Wordsworth, "The First of April (Extract)" by Anonymous, "After the Rains" by N.M. Bodecker
  • Articles from Vol. 17 No. 1 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Lively Lizards" by Lana Costantini, "Passport to Wonder" by Marylou Tousignant, "A-maize-ing Grain" by Susan Goodman (M. especially loved the second article, about the new 7 wonders of the world. Many of them she guessed based on their descriptions, and she was excited especially for the Taj Mahal and Chichen Itza.)
  • Art appreciation: Archery of the Mandan by George Catlin from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Catechism: Lesson 20, "The Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Singing: "The Happy Wanderer" (recording by the Stargazers)
  • Music Appreciation: L'Arlésienne Suite: Farandole by Georges Bizet
  • Memory work: 
    • C: "The Tiger" by William Blake, planets, four directions, 50 states, continents, oceans, months of the year, days of the week, marks of the church 
    • M: "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, countries of Europe, 13 colonies, books of the Bible, the 7 sacraments, countries of Asia  


Science 

We talked more about heredity, and I showed the girls What is DNA? from Dr. Binocs, Twins & Quadruplets from Operation Ouch,  and Why Do I Have Freckles? from SciShow Kids. We finished the chapter with a review video from Just For Kids Access Video via the public library: "Investigating Heredity." 

History

C. continued listening to me read from D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. M. read Around Africa to India in Picturesque Tale of Progress, which includes sections called "The Polos Return to Venice," "The Closing of the Caravan Routes," "The Negroes of Africa," and "Vasco da Gama Reaches India."  

Math 

C. worked on two-digit addition with the soroban. M. worked on two-digit multiplication. They both did Khan Academy, and M. did another chapter in Life of Fred: Honey.


Reading and Writing 

C. is still reading Betsy-Tacy. She also re-read Elisa in the Middle. M. wrote a reply to her bookseller pen pal, and she started reading On Tide Mill Lane by Melissa Wiley. 


Physical Education

It was spring break for M.'s friend who attends public school, so we had a nice long morning playdate at one of the neighborhood playgrounds early in the week. 


Instrumental Music 

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder daily.


Monday, April 5, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: March 2021 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

In March, I read 16 books, 8 of which were middle grade titles I chose for #MiddleGradeMarch on Instagram. I gave up audiobooks for Lent, but I did allow myself to finish listening to the Lord of the Rings trilogy since I was already more than halfway through my re-read of the series by Ash Wednesday. Here are the 16 titles: 

Sounder by William H. Armstrong
[reviewed on Instagram]
I'm not a dog person (or a dog book person), but this is a truly beautifully written children's novel about a young black boy whose father has gone to jail, leaving behind his hunting dog who was injured during the arrest. 

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
[reviewed on the blog]
I set a goal to read three Newbery medal winners in 2021, and since this was the most recent winner, I decided to just knock it off my list. I was really not a fan. 

Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather
[reviewed on Goodreads]
While there are Cather novels I prefer over this one, I still really liked this story of a young music student and her misguided, broken heart. 

The House on the Point by Benjamin Hoff
[reviewed on Goodreads
This is a retelling of a Hardy Boys book. It was fun to read a new take on an old series. 

Sunshine by Marion Dane Bauer
[reviewed on the blog]
This was an ARC from Candlewick Press that wound up being a big disappointment. I couldn't get past the message that it's heroic for a woman to abandon her child. 

The Green Poodles by Charlotte Baker
[reviewed on the blog]
I read aloud this vintage children's novel to my three big girls, and they loved it. It had a lot of, bordering on too many, details about raising and training poodles, but my kids didn't mind. 

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was my first Binchy and my favorite book of the entire month. I loved all the characters as well as the central setting of a new heart clinic in Ireland. 

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois
[review coming soon on the blog]
This was another read-aloud with my big girls, and it was a huge hit, even with my 5-year-old who is usually not into this kind of story.

Trace by Patricia Cornwell
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I go up and down with how I feel about this series, but this one was okay, so I'm going to keep reading through them for now, since I own used copies of all the rest of the titles. 

It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville
[review coming soon on the blog]
I first read this in library school before I had Goodreads or a blog, so I counted it as unread on my list of Newbery winners until re-reading it this month. I will post a review soon. 

Death Takes Up a Collection by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This series of murder mysteries starring an amateur detective who is also a nun is a fun palate cleanser every now and then. I picked up this book to read after realizing it was set in mid-March.

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I left this book unfinished years ago and never knew how the ending differed in the book and the movie. Now I know, and I was not disappointed.

Glass Houses by Louise Penny
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This is the first book in this series where I've seriously questioned Gamache's behavior. I think my ultimate opinion on this one will be determined by the trajectory of the series in future books. 

Motherhood Redeemed by Kimberly Cook
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I read this for an upcoming post at Catholic Mom. Stay tuned!

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
[reviewed on the blog]
The writing in this book was really excellent. It wasn't a good choice when I wanted a whodunit or a more typical true crime book and I had set it aside, but it was great when I went into it with no expectations.  

The Next Great Jane by K.L. Going
[reviewed on the blog]
This was a nice, light middle grade read to close out the month. 


The Best of the Bunch

My favorite book this month, without question, was Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy. I immediately bought two more of her books that are related to this one and I can't wait to read them. I'm also keeping this book, which is basically unheard of. 



As for the rest of the family's reading...

My husband finished reading The Ramsay Scallop by Frances Temple, and he insists that I need to read it next so I can warn people away from it. Apparently its treatment of Christianity leaves much to be desired. He is now reading The Summer Birds by Penelope Farmer which is enjoying much more.

My seven-year-old daughter M. is reading On Tide Mill Lane by Melissa Wiley, book 2 in the Charlotte series spun off from Little House on the Prairie. 

My five-year-old daughter, C., is still plugging along in the Betsy-Tacy series. She has also read Elisa in the Middle and Rip-Roaring Russell, both by Johanna Hurwitz, which my mom bought in response to C's request for books involving babies. 

My three-year-old daughter, E., has started listening to me read aloud from The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook, and she is hooked! 

My one-year-old twins, son R. and daughter A. are not getting as much read-aloud time as I would like, but they recently enjoyed looking through First 100 Words by Roger Priddy. 


Up Next For Me

Heading into April, I've started Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I had planned to read this later in the year, but there were so many lovely tributes to the author when he died that I decided to move it up. I'm also reading And Then They Stopped Talking to Me: Making Sense of Middle School by Judith Warner and I just started listening to American Royals by Katherine McGee. Beyond these, I have no solid plans yet, other than to read The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God by Ruth Pakaluk for book club. 

Linking Up

I'm sharing this post to four link-ups: 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 3/22/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Spring" by William Blake,  "Six Little Ducks" by Anonymous, "Riddle" by Anonymous, "Two Wrens" by Anonymous, "Crows" by David McCord, "In the Fields" by Anonymous, "Pippa's Song" by Robert Browning, "If Once You Have Slept On an Island" by Rachel Field 
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 1 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Extreme Animals" by Lynn Brunelle, "Amazon Adventure" by Cynthia Overbeck Bix, "Wedge It" by Glen Phelan 
  • Art appreciation: The House of Cards by Jean-Simeon Chardin from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Catechism: Lesson 20, "The Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Singing: "Waltzing Matilda" (recording by Slim Dusty)
  • Music Appreciation: The Four Seasons: "Spring" by Antonio Vivaldi 
  • Memory work: 
    • C: planets, marks of the church, continents, days of the week, months of the year, address, phone number, "The Tiger" by William Blake
    • M: seven sacraments, books of the Bible, 13 colonies, countries of Europe, address, phone number, "Sea Fever" by John Masefield 


Science

M. and C. started BFSU Lesson B-4b: What is a Species? I read aloud from The Kingdoms of Life: Classification by Bridget Anderson. We also watched a fun video about Carl Linnaeus.  M. and C. also worked with Snap Circuits together.


History 

M. read about the Mongol Conquest of Persia. C. read more Greek myths and colored more pictures.


Math

M. did some work in Singapore math. She continued practicing two-digit multiplication. C. continued practicing two-digit addition with renaming on the soroban.


Reading and Writing

M. received a letter from her bookseller pen pal and started drafting a reply. She and C. both listened to me read aloud Dandelion Cottage. C. read Elisa in the Middle and Rip-Roaring Russell by Johanna Hurwitz.  


Other Activities

The girls did a Crayola Craft Fingerprint Paints kit and played with play dough. The HOA also finally opened the neighborhood playgrounds this week and they were able to play there three times. 

Homeschool Update: Week of 3/15/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Wind Song" by Lilian Moore, "March Weather" by Tessa Ransford, "Silent Song" by Roger Stevens, "If You Find a Little Feather" by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, "Dayflight" by Geoffrey Summerfield, "Brooms" by Dorothy Aldis, "Pigeon and Wren" by Anonymous 
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 5 of National Geographic Young Explorer (Scout edition): "Puffin Parents,"  "A Giant Cactus," and "Looking in a Mirror" 
  • Art appreciation: Archery of the Mandan by George Catlin from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Catechism: Lesson 20, "The Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Singing: "Molly Malone" (recording by the Dubliners)
  • Music Appreciation: The Four Seasons: Spring by Antonio Vivaldi 
  • Memory work: 
    • C: planets, marks of the church, continentsl days of the week, months of the year, address, phone number, "The Tiger" by William Blake
    • M: seven sacraments, books of the Bible, 13 colonies, countries of Europe, address, phone number, "Sea Fever" by John Masefield 


Science

We continued working on BFSU Volume 1 Lesson B-4a. We finished Birds in their Homes and read Discovering Trees by Douglas Florian. We watched Home Sweet Habitat from Crash Course Kids. We also watched "Classifying Living Things," a video from Visual Learning that I accessed through the library's subscription to Just for Kids Access Video. 


History 

M. read about China and Japan in A Picturesque Tale of Progress. C. continued listening to me read D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths and she did some coloring pages of the gods and goddesses she heard about. 


Math

M. and C. both did Khan Academy daily. M. also worked on two-digit multiplication and C. also worked on two-digit addition with renaming on the soroban. M. did two more chapters in Life of Fred: Ice Cream.


Reading and Writing 

We started reading aloud Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin at lunchtime. C. is still reading Betsy-Tacy. M. did some grammar pages in Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills Grade 3.


Physical Education

We had a playdate at the playground on St. Patrick's Day and our regular weekly playdate with the neighbors' grandkids on Friday.


Instrumental Music

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder daily. 


Other Activities

M. and C. worked with modeling clay and E. used play dough. C. made a birthday card for my grandma's boyfriend. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 3/8/21

We had four days of increasingly warm and beautiful weather this week, so we lightened the school load a bit to be able to spend more time outside. Basically, this meant we didn't do Catechism or much memory work and no one did any Singapore Math. 


Morning Time

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Spring Song" by William Blake, "After Winter" by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, "Cat and Crocuses" by Eva Martin, "Rabbit" by Caryl Hart, "Spring" by William Blake 
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 6 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Parrots in Peril" by Christine Dell'Amore, "Pulley Power" by Glen Phelan, and "Food for the Future" by Joe Levit
  • Art appreciation: Blind Man's Bluff by Kitagawa Utamaro from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: "Tom Dooley" (recording by the Kingston Trio); "Molly Malone" (recording by the Dubliners)
  • Music Appreciation: Polonaise in A Major: No. 1, "Military" by Frederic Chopin 


Health

M. had her cast removed on Monday. We are planning to have her record one final video about the experience.


Science

Lucky for us given the nice weather, this week's science unit about animals and their habitats called for outdoor nature walks. I took M. and baby A. on Tuesday and C. and baby R. on Thursday for a long walk to the Adventure Playground and back. On Wednesday, E. did an outdoor scavenger hunt here in our neighborhood. We also started reading aloud Birds in Their Homes by Addison Webb and Sabra Mallett Kimball and looked up the calls of each bird we read about on AllAboutBirds.org.

On Wednesday, C. did the Capillary Action Kiwi Crate, which involved dyeing paper flowers and playing a balancing tree game.

 

Physical Education

M. and C. both had the chance to play on the Adventure Playground 


History

M. studied medieval Russia. C. started listening to me read aloud D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. (We're laying some foundation for next year's history studies.)


Math

M. and C. both did Khan Academy. C. practiced two-digit addition on the soroban, but not every day. M. started Life of Fred: Ice Cream


Reading and Writing

Our read-aloud was The Twenty-One Balloons. We read the entire thing in one week. M. loved it. C. eventually got interested about three chapters before the end. 

C. continued to read Betsy-Tacy and Tib and M. continued reading The Boxcar Children. E.'s audiobooks of choice were Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. She also continues to love Frances. 


Instrumental Music

C. practiced piano and recorder most days. M. began to ease back into playing.


Other Activities

On Friday, I went on Instagram live for Catholic Mom to lead a decade of the Rosary and M. and C. prayed along. That same day, we had our playdate. 

Homeschool Update: Week of 3/1/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "I am the Song" by Charles Causley, "Paper Dragons" by Susan Alton Schmeltz, "Seasons" by Steve Turner, "Seasons" by Anonymous, "Think of It" by Zaro Weil
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 5 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Lions on the Loose" by Joe Levit (about lion fish), "Round and Round with Wheels and Axles" by Glen Phelan, "Saving History" by Brenna Maloney
  • Art appreciation: Children's Games by Peter Bruegel the Elder from Come Look with Me: World of Play with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: "Tom Dooley" (recording by the Kingston Trio)
  • Music Appreciation: Symphony No. 8: Movement 2 by Ludwig von Beethoven 
  • Catechism: Lesson 19, "The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Commandments of God " from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Memory Work: 
    • M.: Monarchs of England, books of the Bible, seven sacraments, countries of Europe, Great Lakes, "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, addition and subtraction flashcards
    • C.: days of the week, months of the year, marks of the church, cardinal directions, "The Tiger" by William Blake, multiplication and division flashcards 
    • E.: "Icicles" by Anonymous, letters and numbers flashcards 


Science

We continued talking about mixtures and chemical reactions in BFSU and EESE and watched some videos about how the  body uses energy:  Fuelling the Body and Gotta Eat. Then we learned about the carbon cycle and watched Real World: The Carbon Cycle

On Wednesday, E. did the Bugs Koala Crate, which involved making a bug costume. She wore it pretty much every day after that. 


History

M. read about Genghis Khan and drew an illustration of Robin Hood for her book of centuries. 

C. finished History Can Be Fun and watched several episodes of Liberty's Kids


Math 

M. worked in Singapore 3B and finished Life of Fred: Honey. C. continued doing two-digit addition problems on the soroban.  


Reading and Writing

M. did some more pages about sentence structure in Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills Grade 3. She finished Dr. Dolittle's Return and started Boxcar Children #13: Snowbound Mystery. C continued reading Betsy-Tacy and Tib and she also picked up Jasmine Green Rescues: A Duckling Called Button.

E. finally moved on from Mercy Watson and is branching out to other books. Favorites from this week included Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, as well as all the Frances books by Russell Hoban. 


Instrumental Music 

C. practiced piano and recorder most days of the week. M. still couldn't practice because of her cast.


Other Activities

M. and C. received from Grandma little Dover "Make a Masterpiece" booklets featuring different works of art that they had to reconstruct using stickers. M. did Starry Night and C. did A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. E. had a Dover sticker book as well, Puppy & Pal Dress Up. We also had our usual weekly playdate with the neighbors' grandkids. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Book Review: The Green Poodles by Charlotte Baker (1956)

Allan Green, who lives at Pond Farm with his Aunt Lena and older siblings Ann and Charley, really wants a dog. Aunt Lena likes dogs, but she insists that they can't have one on the farm - at least until the newly-orphaned cousin Fern moves in along with her poodle, Juliet. Little do Allan and Aunt Lena realize how the arrival of this champion canine will change their lives, first by having puppies and then by bringing the entire Green clan into the world of dog shows, kennels, and obedience classes. 

I read this vintage middle grade novel aloud to my three oldest daughters, ages 7, 5, and 3, and they all liked it. There are lots of details that kids find interesting about dog training, dog breeds, dog shows, and dog haircuts, and there is a bit of a mystery woven throughout the story as well. I found the book pleasant enough, but a bit longer than necessary. The middle of the story really drags under the weight of a few too many doggie details and the payoff on the mystery plot is way too late in coming. By the time the truth comes out, the initial details of that thread of the story are all but forgotten! (I also predicted how things would turn out, but I don't think my kids saw it coming, so that's less of a criticism, and more a comment on how the book is really tailored to its intended audience, rather than to the expectations of adults.)

The Green Poodles is a good book for modeling family cooperation and for showing how sacrifice, perseverance, and teamwork can help even a group of young kids achieve their goals and find success in the world of business. Absolutely nothing that happens in this book is likely to happen in real life,  but the positive spirit that the Greens maintain in the face of adversity is a positive influence I don't mind passing on to my kids. This book is in our home library, and I'm sure we will revisit it when my little ones are old enough to enjoy it. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Book Review: Sunshine by Marion Dane Bauer (2021) (ARC)

Ben has been living with his single dad and an imaginary dog named Sunshine ever since his mom left the family when Ben was very young. This summer, though, Ben has been invited to visit his mom on the secluded island where she lives, and he is determined to get some answers. He also believes that if he is appealing enough, she will want to return to their family home and pick up where they left off. 

This review contains spoilers because it's the only way I can explain what is wrong with the book.

This book rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning. To me, Ben is obviously a character with a lot of psychological trauma associated with his mom leaving home, and his imaginary dog is a very sad and somewhat creepy manifestation of that trauma. Neither of his parents seem to care about the deeper issues underlying the fact that their son speaks to, pets, and even feeds an animal everyone knows is not there. His dad is disapproving, and his mom is overly accommodating, but no one is taking a healthy approach to dealing with what is very obviously a deep pain in this boy's life.

I also nearly flew into a blind rage when I heard that the mother, a victim of physical abuse herself, lost her temper with her preschooler once, and immediately walked out on the family never to return as a means of keeping her son safe. The author clearly wants me to view this woman as a hero, but the character doesn't strike me that way at all. There were plenty of ways she could have dealt with her brief instinct to hit her child, and to say that abandoning her son, who then develops a hallucination as a coping mechanism, was the right thing to do is appalling. 

I'm honestly not sure why the world needs this book. The writing is fine, but the idea that this kid accepts his mother's explanation and immediately forgives her is troubling, as is the ending where the imaginary dog goes to live with the mother until Ben comes back next year. I left the story feeling as though no one learned anything and the mother was absolved of her wrongdoing without even apologizing for the right thing. I thought I was reading a book about a boy who would face the questions of his past and move forward for himself. Instead, it wound up that Ben's mother keeps his weird doggie delusion going and apparently gets to continue to live without the responsibility of caring for her child even now that she can clearly be trusted to look after him without beating him up. And Ben has learned to feel good about his mom leaving him because it was actually heroic. There are too many mental gymnastics involved in trying to make sense of how this is a happy ending. 

Candlewick provided me with an ARC of Sunshine, which comes out May 18, 2021. I chose to read it based on the author, but in the end, it was just not the book for me or my family. Your mileage may vary, but, especially if you are a mom, probably not by much.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Fumbling Through Fantasy: Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson (1999)

Three sisters, Etta, Coral, and Myrtle, have been tending to the unusual creatures on their island without help for years. Realizing that more hands would make lighter work for them as they age, the sisters pose as aunts and each one kidnaps a child. Two of the children, Minette and Fabio, are mostly agreeable and pleasant, but the third choice, Lambert, proves to be difficult and even dangerous in a variety of ways. As Minette and Fabio adjust to life on the island, and distance themselves from the troubles they left behind in their regular lives, they come to feel a strong affinity for the aunts and their creatures, but Lambert feels no such sympathy and soon brings a major threat to the island in the form of his greedy father.

I absolutely love Eva Ibbotson's historical novels for kids and teens, and I decided to read this book aloud to my kids based on that. Unfortunately, though my kids enjoyed the book, I found it to be a slog. The  sense of humor puts me in mind of Roald Dahl, but the execution is both more preachy and more zany than I wanted it to be. The ecological lesson the book wants to teach, about respecting the environment and caring for animals, is very heavy-handed, and there are quite a few vaguely religious aspects to the story that seem to contradict a Christian worldview and felt uncomfortable for me to read to my kids. The story also involves a lot of brokenness in each kidnapped child's family of origin, and I felt that the cavalier attitude with which bad behavior was treated  was a bit much, even for my oldest. There was also a hint at an idea I've seen in three middle grade books I've read recently: that it's okay, and maybe even heroic, for parents to abandon their kids for the greater good. Granted, the parent in question in this book is a kraken, but I still felt uncomfortable. 

My kids are big fans of fantasy and I'm not, so I think some of my weariness with the book does stem from having to read aloud something so vastly different from what I enjoy myself. But had this been a great fantasy story, it would have won me over, as others have done in the past, and that never happened. Depending on the subject matter, I may not be opposed to letting my kids enjoy others of Ibbotson's fantasy stories on their own, but for myself, from now on, I'm sticking to her historical fiction. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/22/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Snowman Sniffles" by N.M. Bodecker, "Snow Spell" by Berlie Doherty, "Tam Snow (To Kaye Webb)" by Charles Causley, "Icicles" by Anonymous, "Whether the weather be cold" by Anonymou
  • Articles from Vol. 3 No. 5 of National Geographic Explorer: "Weird and Wonderful Caves" by Glen Phelan, "Freaky Frogs" by Dan and Michele Hogan, "Vanishing Cultures" by Wade Davis, and "A Wild School" 
  • Art appreciation: Shahnama (The Book of Kings)  of Shah Tabmasp, Siavush Plays Polo Before Afrasiyab (180 verso) by Abu'l Qasim Firdausi, Qasim, Son of Ali, Mir Musarrir (Supervised by) Shah Tahmasp from Come Look with Me: World of Play with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: "Camptown Races" by Stephen Foster
  • Music Appreciation: Tritsch-Tratsch Polka by Johann Strauss, Jr.
  • Catechism: Lesson 18, "The Second and Third Commandments of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Memory Work: 
    • M.: Monarchs of England, books of the Bible, seven sacraments, countries of Europe, Great Lakes, "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, addition and subtraction flashcards
    • C.: days of the week, months of the year, marks of the church, cardinal directions, "The Tiger" by William Blake, multiplication and division flashcards 
    • E.: "Icicles" by Anonymous, letters and numbers flashcards 


Health

M. was interested in learning about the sense of taste, so we watched an Operation Ouch video featuring some taste test experiments. 


Science

This week we started lesson A-7 in BFSU, which is about the mixture of gases that make up air and about the difference between mixtures and chemical reactions. Rather than perform the experiments ourselves, we looked them up on YouTube and watched these video demonstrations: 


History 

C. and I read up to the American Revolution in History Can Be Fun. M. read about Marco Polo and started reading about Genghis Khan. She drew a picture of Genghis Khan for her book of centuries.  


Math

C. did a worksheet of two-digit addition with renaming to practice with her soroban. M. went back and corrected mistakes she made in previous lessons of Singapore 3B. 


Reading and Writing

We continued reading aloud The Green Poodles by Charlotte Baker. 

C. did some exercises in a workbook called Rhyme Time Language Workbook Grades 1 - 3. She also read some chapters in Betsy-Tacy and Tib. To Gran on Skype, she read aloud Stardust by Jeanne Willis and Briony May Smith, A Holiday for Mister Muster by Arnold Lobel, Bernadette's Busy Morning by Ila Hodgson. 

M. did some exercises in Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills Grade 3 involving putting words into the right order to form a sentence and identifying complete sentences.  She's still reading Dr. Dolittle's Return independently, and White Stallion of Lipizza by Marguerite Henry to Gran over Skype.

E. continues to be completely enamored of the Mercy Watson series. She is also enjoying the Frances series, especially A Birthday for Frances


Instrumental Music

C. practiced piano and recorder each day.


Other Activities

We had a playdate in the neighborhood gazebo on Wednesday. On the weekend, M. and C. played the board game Trouble. We attended the Latin Mass on Sunday.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Book Review: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller (2020)

In When You Trap a Tiger, the 2021 Newbery Medal winner, Lily, her mom, and her sister, Sam, have recently left California and moved to Sunbeam, Washington to live with Lily's halmoni, her Korean grandmother who has always been surrounded by an air of magic and mystery. Upon arriving, Lily sees a tiger in the road outside Halmoni's house, but when she realizes it isn't visible to anyone else, she understands that something unusual is happening. In fact, after talking with Halmoni and learning that she is ill, Lily comes to believe that Halmoni has stolen stories and the tiger has come to take them back. If only Lily can bargain with the tiger, she believes she'll be able to save her grandmother's life. 

Just like the 2018 Newbery medal winner, Merci Suarez Changes Gears, this is a mediocre and surface-level story about a young non-white girl and a beloved grandparent, only this time with a bit of a fantastical twist. Compared with the high standard set by Newbery winners of decades past, this one is largely unremarkable and forgettable. The writing is very commercial and conversational, with lots of tween-friendly dialogue and not much in the way of figurative language, other than a beaten-to-death tiger metaphor. It is impossible for me to accept that this book was the most distinctive of 2020, even given the very small number of new middle grade books I read last year. 

As always, though, I can easily find all the "woke" elements that must have made this book so appealing to the committee. In the scene where Lily first visits the public library, the teen girl who works there (who later becomes the object of Lily's older sister's crush) tells her that she doubts they have any books on Korean folktales because "this town is pretty white." This makes sure to blame not the librarian who purchases the books, but the entire white population of the community for apparently excluding Lily's entire culture from the shelves. (I also don't buy that a public library doesn't have Korean folk tales. The folk tale sections of every library I've worked in have been robust and diverse regardless of the color of the majority of patrons' skin. If this specific library doesn't have them, the author needs a more nuanced explanation.)

A few pages later, Lily meets Ricky, an excitable middle schooler who doesn't have many friends and is awkward in social situations. Within two sentences, Ricky has been painted as sexist because he tells Lily he's "never met a girl who likes tigers before." Ricky is shown to be insensitive later in the book as well, when he mocks Lily's grandmother for her cultural customs. When he apologizes, he is not only portrayed as an idiot (he can't pronounce halmoni, even after being corrected) but he also actually uses the phrase "hostile environment." I'd hate to be a boy reading this story; with Ricky representing the male sex, he won't walk away feeling particularly good about being male. The talking tiger in the story also makes a comment about gender when Lily assumes she is a boy: "Typical. You hear one story about a male tiger and think we're all the same? Humans are the worst." Not the most uplifting message for the 8-to-12-year-old audience.

I also really felt uncomfortable with some of the story's messages. I didn't like the constant feeling that the reader was being led to reject old stories and to celebrate writing new ones to replace them, as it reminds me of the way libraries are starting to remove older titles for dubious reasons. I also really hated the idea that "sometimes people feel trapped in their own skin and they have to leave" as an explanation for why Ricky's mother (a stay-at-home mom) abandoned her family. Stay-at-home motherhood is not a trap, and I don't like being asked to empathize with someone for escaping it by basically neglecting her role as a mother entirely. I also felt that this book took a very bleak view on death, commenting that after someone dies, "the person you loved is gone" and not really leaving any room for Halmoni's suffering to have any meaning.   

A line from this book says, "Even if things aren't perfect, they can still be good." Unfortunately, this book's imperfections are so numerous that it's just not good. We own most of the Newbery medal winners from previous decades, but just like the winners from 2018, 2019 and 2020, we will not buy this one, nor will my kids be reading it. It's endlessly frustrating that an award given for high-quality writing keeps singling out middling books because they check the right political boxes. I'm more annoyed by the content than I would have been had this book not been awarded a Newbery. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: February 2021 Wrap-Up

 My Month in Books

In February, I read 13 books, bringing me to 30 for the year so far. Here's the full list: 

Affairs of Steak
by Julie Hyzy (4 stars)
This is book 5 in the White House Chef Mystery series, which was one of the first cozy mystery series I started reading a few years ago. I took a break from it for a while, but decided to read one this month for the #fedbybooks challenge on Instagram.  

Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo (5 stars)
[reviewed on Instagram]
This was my book club book for this month. I listened to the audiobook read by the author, and it was very well done. I enjoyed learning more about an amazing Catholic woman and about the creation of EWTN even in the face of objections from clergy.

The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss by Krista Davis (2 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was another one I picked up with the #fedbybooks challenge in mind. I owned the paperback, but listened to the audio. I didn't really like it and I have decided not to read more from the series for right now.

Treasures: Visible & Invisible by CatholicTeenBooks.com (5 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
I received a .PDF review copy of this book from one of the authors, and I just absolutely loved it. If you or your teens need something to read to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, this is a great choice.

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This is book 2 in the Renee Ballard series. It wasn't as good as book one, but I enjoyed it and will be reading book 3. 

Killer Kung Pao by Vivien Chien (4 stars)
[reviewed on Instagram]
One more #fedbybooks read. This is book 6 in the Noodle Shop Mystery series. This series is still going strong, and I'm excited for the next one. 

Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last by Patience Bloom (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I read this one around Valentine's Day. Though I have nothing in common with the author, and would not have made any of the life choices she made, I really enjoyed listening to her read the story on the audiobook.  

Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson (2 stars)
[review coming soon on blog]
I read this aloud to my kids, who loved it. I felt like it went on forever and I have mixed feelings about some of the content. I am working on a full review to be published soon. 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (2 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
I read this book as part of my continuing quest to understand why majoring English was such a terrible experience for me. I'm pretty sure I've figured it out now: reading literature like a professor is something I never ever want to do. My review goes into greater detail as to why. 

Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
After enjoying Treasures and realizing how many wonderful Catholic authors I haven't been reading, I decided to seek out the novels of some of the authors. I started with contemporary romance because that is one of my favorite genres, and I absolutely loved this book. I was so invested in the characters, and I loved the way Catholic teaching about chastity was woven into the story in a very realistic and non-preachy way.  

Be Bold in the Broken by Mary Lenaburg (3 stars)
[reviewed on Instagram]
Mary is such an inspiring presence in the Catholic corner of the Internet. I love what this book has to say about the worthiness of all women in the eyes of God. 

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West  (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I read this with the Everyday Reading book club on Instagram, and learned so much about life in the White House in the mid 20th century. I especially loved that this took a human interest, rather than a political, angle. 

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was a re-read for me. It's still great. Gollum is still so intriguing, and Shelob is still terrifying. I've never read to the end of Return of the King, so I'm looking forward to finally doing that during this next month. 


The Best of the Bunch


Surprisingly, neither of my favorites were books I had initially planned to read this month, but both were clear five-star reads. 






As for the rest of the family's reading...


My husband finished reading Zeb by Lonzo Anderson, a middle grade novel by the husband of illustrator Adrienne Adams. He gave it three stars. 

M., age 7, read a few titles in the Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald Sobol, which inspired a lot of wandering through the house speaking in a faux British accent about "the culprits." She also started reading aloud White Stallion of Lipizza by Marguerite Henry to my mother-in-law over Skype.

C., age 5, has been on a nonfiction kick with books from the '60s by Leonora Hornblow: Animals Do the Strangest Things, Reptiles Do the Strangest Things, Birds Do the Strangest Things, and Insects Do the Strangest Things. She also finished Betsy-Tacy and is now reading Betsy-Tacy and Tib.  
E., age 3 fell in love with Ezra Jack Keats this month after reading A Snowy Day. We have since read Pet Show, A Letter to Amy, Peter's Chair, and Hi, Cat. Other frequent requests have been A Birthday for Frances, the Mercy Watson books on audio (as always), and the first book in the Deckawoo Drive series (the chapter book spin off of Mercy Watson), Leroy Ninker Saddles Up.

A. and R., both 11 months, listened to Freight Train by Donald Crews, Hello Lamb by Jane Cabrera, and Goodnight Bear by Jane Cabrera and lots of nursery rhymes. 

Up Next For Me 

I started Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather, so I want to finish that up in early March. It's also Middle Grade March in the Instagram and Booktube communities and I have a whole stack of middle grade books I want to read, including a digital ARC of the newest Greenglass House book and Newbery winners like Sounder, The Hero and the Crown, and Twenty One Balloons.

Linking Up

I'm sharing this post to four link-ups: